Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Thanks For Making Our Day

A few weeks ago, while doing our typical, leisurely 65 mph (in a 75 mph zone) on I-40 near the Arizona/New Mexico border, a blue Toyota Rav 4 with Colorado plates passed us. They immediately pulled over and also began doing 65 mph. Slightly peeved, Scott said, "This guy passed me for that?". A few minutes later, the Toyota slowed to 60 mph. At this point, even El Tigre felt the urge to pass.

As we pulled up alongside the Toyota, there was a sign in the driver's window, "Hi Heather and Scott! Big fans of the blog!" We honked and waved and pulled back behind them, as they sped off down the road. Too bad we didn't have the camera ready. To our unknown friends, keep an eye out for us in Colorado this winter, and thanks for making our day!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Trouble (or Maybe Just Lucky) in Paradise

After our renovations, we made a bee-line to Baja, Mexico hoping to catch the last of the wind and waves at our favorite place, Punta San Carlos.

As we headed out of Ann Arbor, Michigan we couldn't possibly just drive past Marshall (only an hour down the road) without stopping at Dark Horse Brewery. It was a little sad that we celebrated the end of all our work without my parents, who were instrumental in our success. We sent text messages and pictures while we were celebrating, so that it felt like they were with us.

This is how we celebrate

We managed to survive the painfully boring drive through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. The fun started when we made a pit-stop in Denver to visit our long-lost friends Dave and Melissa. It's always fun to catch up with them because despite our very different lifestyles, we have a lot in common. We know them from Portland and their lives follow an adventurous and active path. Melissa gave us a good ass-kicking on a trail run in the mile-high city.

Old friends can't be beat! I've known Melissa for 17 years - oh the times we've had.

Further along the road in Colorado, we visited our fellow overlanding friends (Todd, Shonah, and Chip) at Copper Mountain, where they treated us to condo living (thanks Aunt Lou!), complete with a fancy dinner and Jacuzzi afterwards. We feel like we could endlessly chat with them.

Boys with their toys

We battled the heat of southern Arizona and finally made it to Punta San Carlos, Baja.

Cool stuff in  Arizona that we normally would've stopped for if not in such a rush to get to Baja

We had plans to stay on the beach at Punta San Carlos (PSC) for a month. The drive-in takes about 4 hours on rough roads, so we had to wrap our minds around how much food and water to bring for such a long time. I told my Dad that I would take a picture of our fresh food, since he was curious about how much we could/would possibly bring for a month. The dried goods where too much to capture!

Fresh food goes FAST. Potatoes, onions, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, squash, cabbage, fruit, avocados.
Only a few things will last beyond 2+ weeks.

We made it to our happy place

We had an incredible week of kiteboarding and surfing before things took a turn for the worse. Our fridge died. I mean, it really died. Scott had been nursing it along for a couple of years. Without getting into any boring detail, the compressor died - the heart and soul of the fridge.

Scott was so happy to be surfing again

We made the tough decision to drive back 300 miles to San Diego to get a new fridge. It would only take a few days to get to the USA, order the fridge, pick it up, do some errands, and then get back to our happy place in PSC. As soon as we got internet, we started searching. The place we bought our original fridge from, quoted a six week wait! Very fortunately, we found a place in San Diego that had only one remaining in stock--no shipping and no waiting! GO INTERNET!

Heading out of the desert with a warm fridge

While we were back in California, finding some secluded camping in the Cleveland National Forest, we pushed El Tigre a little hard. One of the front sway-bar linkages broke. So, in the midst of replacing our fridge, Scott also managed to procure and replace the broken linkage in the parking lot of a laundromat. How convenient for the other most pressing chore on our list - CLEAN CLOTHES!!!!

MacGyver at work

It's not hard to tell where the new part is

With our new fridge, clean clothes, more food/water, we head back to PSC, viviendo la vida suerte (living the lucky life)...

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Planny Plan Part III

What's next for us? I wish I could share an exciting grand plan's planny plan for our next adventure, but I cannot. We have some near-term plans and some long term ideas that I won't share, because things will most certainly change.

I guess you could say we are taking a deep breath after 6 years of traveling outside the USA. We missed some things that we can find right here, closer to home, where we won't spend so much energy and time navigating and traveling. While our aging bodies can handle it, we would like to focus a little more on physical pursuits (kiting, surfing, biking, hiking, paddleboarding, snowboarding, etc.) rather than world travel. To be fair, all of those thing could/should involve world travel...

We are currently on our way to Baja where we will spend 2.5 months (Oct, Nov, Dec) kiteboarding, surfing, eating lots of cheap avocados, and drinking our favorite "working man's" tequilla, Jimador.

After that, we'll visit family over the holidays for the first time in 7 years.

Family and friends on the Matthews side have had to replace us with cardboard during xmas time

As soon as we're ready to leave the chilly, flat midwest sometime in January, we will hit the road towards the western mountains for some backcountry snowboarding. We have a far-flung notion that we might find a house rental somewhere for a few months. We're thinking British Columbia, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, etc. First we need to see what the El Nino weather pattern will bring. We also have vague, more far-flung plans to buy an old Subaru or Toyota Matrix for a daily winter driver. In the end, I could imagine those plans falling through and just chasing snow in El Tigre for the winter - at least we have insulation now!

Spring 2016 may have us back down to Baja and then up to Alaska for the summer. In between all of this, we will make as many stops as possible to our favorite region -- the Pacific Northwest!

Aaaaand, that's it. We aren't even thinking beyond that. Things can change quickly and we are more than open to what the future brings. We're excited about the possibilities.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

1994 Tiger Provan Renovation

We finally finished our big truck project. It started out so innocently. We wanted to insulate the top fiberglass portion of the camper. This meant we would have to remove the ceiling and all of the walls and cabinets. Things got out of control when we started to realize that by completely demolishing the interior of our camper, we only had one choice... Completely rebuild it with BETTER material. WARNING: This is a very picture-heavy post which captures the process.

El Tigre is 21 years old and even the good parts were turning bad. The ceiling (wood) and walls (weird fabric material) had signs of mold from all of our time in humid, tropical climates. Almost all of the walls and cabinets were particle board. If you aren't familiar with particle board, let me introduce you to my most hated wood product. It is cheap, heavy, weak, ugly, AND when it gets wet it expands and disintegrates.

Scott jumped right in with the demolition and took down our ceiling. Note the complete lack of insulation!

The rats nest of electrical, plumbing, and particle board oatmeal

The old ceiling that served as a full-scale blueprint for the new ceiling, cabinets, lights, USB jacks, and 12-volt jacks

Removing the  old wall fabric bruised my finger-tips

In addition to insulation and new walls/ceiling, the shower got rebuilt including a new fiberglass pan that Scott designed. The plumbing, electrical, and even the sofa got an overhaul. While Scott was doing a lot of the hard engineering and manual work, I was washing, sanding, painting, varnishing, grinding, wire-wheeling, and caulking everything in sight. I learned more than I ever thought necessary about insulation, adhesives, sealant, epoxy, polyurethane, varnish, primer, and paint.

Cutting the new foam for the sofa with an electric knife

The original roof vent - one of the many metal things on/in our truck that were replaced

Grinding yet another metal object

The aluminum box that goes on the back was sanded, primed, and repainted

Beginning of the shower pan - foam and wood

Laying strips of fiberglass over the shower pan

Mixing some expensive epoxy to brush over the fiberglass

The finished shower pan!

We got a quote for $600 to repaint the hood of our truck but I went for the DIY option.
It cost me lots of time and $20 in supplies.

The biggest challenge was dealing with the weird angles and curves of the camper - nothing is a right angle. The cabinets and walls took the longest to design, cut, and finish.

Starting to install the insulation. Wiring installed to accommodate 23 new LED lights, 8 power outlets, and 6 USB ports. 

Insulation almost completed along the walls and ceiling

Starting the vinyl installation along the sides

Slowly installing the vinyl along the sides (this is above the bed)

Thin, painted plywood glued and screwed into the ceiling

A slightly tricky piece that Scott was very proud of

Our old counter top that weighed nearly 50 lbs - particle board and granite (!!)

Peeling off the covering on our new stainless steel counter top

One of the many pieces of  wood, stained and coated

We have so much gratitude for being able to stay with my parents and use all of their tools, vehicles, man-power, and support during the past 3.5 months of truck renovations. We all thought it would be such a fun time to hang out together during the summer. But then we realized we do not have the ability to stop working when we have a never ending list of things to do, and everything takes longer than planned. We got increasingly grouchy and preoccupied while working from morning until night. All-in-all we spent 5 months at my parents house. How can we possibly thank them enough? They were MORE than patient and accommodating.

Two months later than expected, here are some pictures of the finished product:

Old (steel) and new (aluminum) furnace-face. I could never keep the rust hidden on the old one.

New everything! -- except the shower door, which will be a future project.

One of our favorite little additions - the locking drawer/cabinet knobs that are common on boats and newer RVs.
No more bungees and straps to keep everything closed.

We are pleased with the bluetooth soundbar installed under the cabinet for music and video

The remodeled bedroom. New curtains that unfold to cover the windows by Mom Matthews (thanks!)

The new shower with an unmounted shower head

New mirrors replaced the old, rusty mirrors that never stayed in place -  one of Scott's favorite improvements.
Too bad we didn't do that 4 years ago!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back to the USA

We made it back to the USA. We couldn't believe our luck when we picked up the truck at the port in Jacksonville without a hitch. El Tigre sailed from Argentina to the USA for 5+ weeks and everything worked out great. We were prepared for so many disastrous scenarios that never played out. If you want more details about vehicle shipping, email us (we shipped with K-Line).

While we waited 6 weeks for the truck to arrive, we spent the beginning of the summer visiting family and friends in Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky. Here we all are:

Scott's sister's family

Scott's brother's family and other brother and mom

Heather's family

We also got a serious dose of Michigan backyard wildlife. Who needs the exotic animals of the world, when you can just hang at my parents' house in Ann Arbor, Michigan? The following pictures are just a sample of the almost-daily surprises we were (and still are) treated to:

We spotted this giant snapping turtle taking a walk across the yard

Since we've been here, we've seen this guy make his commute across the yard (and driveway) twice

We watched these barn swallows grow up and learn how to fly

A couple of wrens took up residence in a decorative face, hanging on the deck

We watched AND got an ear-full of the baby wrens for 2 weeks.
After they flew the coop, we got to see what the nest looked like!

Knock knock.
We love all animals - even the ugly ones

What do you get when you combine toads and a 7-year old boy?

Raccoon ingenuity opened this bird feeder (and kept it open) while the whole family had a feast

The Great Blue Herons are so big!!

In June, after we picked up the truck, we made a bee-line for Ann Arbor, Michigan to begin the process of renovating El Tigre. Let's just say, we didn't think we would still be "renovating" 2+ months later (now). We've been here long enough to celebrate my birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day, my sister's birthday, and my dad's birthday with the family.

This is how things got under way, a little over 2 months ago...

So, there you have it. We are STILL working on the truck. Obviously, we will have to put together another blog post with before, during, and after pictures of our truck project. I'm also due to put together a planny plan post to explain what our latest plans are for fulfilling our adventure-lust. Until then... we are still in Ann Arbor enjoying the 5-star accommodations at Mom and Dad Matthews'.